We have been practising for our April concert that is about songs and song-inspired piano music and we have been thinking about this theme.
Songs have always inspired piano composers, and we often find these piano versions of songs melodious and lovely.
So much so that the composer Liszt – who is perhaps best known as a piano whizkid – composed piano transcriptions of songs of many composers including Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini, Chopin, and many others and his own (as well as on the operatic arias or fragments of Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, Gounod, and others). Schubert’s songs are known to bring tears to his eyes!
But tears aside, making the piano “sing” and sustain the melody is hard work as the piano sound is made by a hammer hitting a string. Getting the notes to sustain a beautiful musical line is called piano technique!
As put by the wonderful pianist and piano pedagogue Leon Fleischer, “I recommend highly singing everything that you play …. If you sing it, somehow the lips and the tongue are not bothered by the ‘garbage’ of playing the instrument.” Here’s him talking about this in a master-class.
Equally, the singer singing in legato requires excellent breath control, amongst other things an important technique (here’s an interview with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on “true legato singing“). In addition, in the German lieder tradition (of the likes of Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Brahms, and others), the piano is an equal partner to the voice and the vocal line and so the piano part requires exceptional control and very skilful execution. All this requires a lot of practising – and perhaps Alfred Brendel’s thoughts about “learning from the Mozart singer” is illuminating too.
We hope you’d join our concert on Sunday 22 April 2018 that brings together songs and song-inspired piano music!